Does The Use Of Thumbnails By Search Engine Companies constitute Fair Use?

According to 17 U.S.C.S. § 106, a copyright holder has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, and publicly display copies of his work. Yet, the doctrine of fair use establishes a limitation to the exclusive rights of a copyright holder. The purpose of the fair use doctrine is to foster a less-rigid application of the copyright laws that would stifle creativity. Copyright infringement litigation against search engine companies has frequently focused on the doctrine of Fair Use under 17 U.S.C.S. § 107. Search engine companies have invoked this doctrine as a defense and in many copyright infringement cases they have succeeded. For instance, search engine companies like Arriba Soft Corporation (currently known as have been sued for copyright infringement for their use of photographs or images in their searching database and they have successfully invoked the doctrine of fair use. However, other search engine companies like Google did not succeed in their fair use claim of thumbnails, although the cases where filed in the same California jurisdiction. This excerpt concentrates on the U.S. Court’s analysis of the fair use doctrine in infringement cases against search engine companies that used copyrighted photographs or images.

The following questions have been addressed in this article:

What are Thumbnails?
Does the Use of Thumbnails by Search Engine Companies Constitute “Fair Use” according to the Arriba Soft Corp. Case?
Does the Use of Thumbnails Constitute Fair Use under the Holding of Perfect 10 v. Google?


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